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Posted By Nan

Eliphaz now turns his words to attacking Job. He accuses Job of being a terrible, wicked man. Whereas Job has spoken of his commitment so social justice and care for others, in line with what God commands all of us to do, Eliphaz contends that Job was doing the reverse. He claims Job has taken money and possessions from others without cause, refused to provide water and food to those in need, refused to assist widows and their children and being greedy and self seeking. It is astonishing he says this after Job’s own testimony. If he knew Job then he must have known Job’s reputation. If God loved and delighted in Job then he must have been as he said, which means his reputation would have been that he was a good man. So how can Eliphaz make such untruthful claims?
He makes these claims because that is the only explanation he can find for Job’s misfortune. He has a belief that if you are good, you will not suffer. The thought that might not be true is terrifying to him. He wants his life to be easy and controllable. His need to believe this is so great he is prepared to abandon his friend when his friend needs him. This is quite a contrast. Here is Job who cares deeply for others and assists them whenever he can, and here is Eliphaz whose concern is for himself and keeping safe and will only assist others if it is convenient to him. From Eliphaz’s perspective, there is only one explanation he is prepared to consider for Job’s misfortune, that Job is evil and is being punished for terrible sins. He refused to consider the evidence of his own eyes, that wicked men do well and innocent men suffer.
It is sad that Eliphaz, in closing his mind to other possibilities, closes his mind to God and causes great suffering to a friend who would have stood by him had such a tragedy befallen him.
This trap is an easy one to fall into. When other explanations and possibilities are frightening it feels safer to refuse to consider there is any other explanation. How easily people slip into this pattern of rigid, legalistic thinking because it is safe. So when we do that we miss out on knowing God, of growing in faith and knowledge of Jesus, because we lack the trust in Him to be comfortable getting to know Him properly and trusting that He will always be with us, even when we find ourselves in situations like that of Job.

Posted By Nan

Now Eliphaz speaks again. He has an interesting perspective. He asks if any human is able to benefit or give pleasure to God. He asks what benefit is it to God if a human being is blameless? He believes that, as all things originate from God then giving back to God does nothing for Him. God expects us to be good so He is not interested in us being good. He only takes notice and acts when we do evil.
Before you laugh at or scorn Eliphaz’s poor concept of God, you need to stop and consider our concept of God. Do you expect Him to be some sort of kindly grandfather who showers blessings on you as a sign of favour? Do you see God as a benevolent ruler who laughs at your rebellion and ‘little’ sins and lets you go without expecting you to change? Do you look at people who are poor, addicts, homeless or others who are struggling and judge them as sinners, even think God has removed His blessing from them because they obviously must be terribly evil? Do you see God as a punitive God who desires bad things for you and wants to punish you?
We all have faulty ideas about who God is and we all need to constantly draw near to God and seek to know Him better. We need time reading the Bible and in prayer, so that we can know God better. We need to desire to be more like Jesus, handing over the control of our lives we desperately cling to. After all, control of our own lives is the sin of Adam and Eve when they decided not to listen to God and eat the forbidden fruit.
A few days ago I saw an interview with a doctor who was a proponent of Euthanasia. He spoke about how important it was for people to have control over their lives and their dying. That interested me. In my years of nursing I have seen many people die and those who died the most peaceful deaths were those who welcomed the process and all that it involved, even the loss of faculties or independence. These people saw death as part of the journey. Rather than fighting it, they welcomed it as an old friend and walked with it. They accepted that there are two certainties in life. We are born. And we die. We cannot change those and it is rarely possible to die without some illness leading up to it. In this doctor’s words I heard the attitude, particularly present in western cultures, about wanting to and expecting to control life. At the heart of much of this attitude is the fear of sitting with uncomfortable feelings, and of not being in control. Life is uncertain and that is the most terrifying thing we have to learn to deal with. It should draw us to God to guide us through the uncertainty because He is the one certainty in our lives. But frequently it draws us to behaviours that attempt to control our lives, and to control others. It leads us to fear those who are different to us or who have different opinions and want to do things differently. It turns many churches into toxic controlling forces that fail to follow God. This is about us surrendering control to God and not repeating the sins of Adam and Eve when they took control of their lives from God. We followed on and ignore the truth and teach our children to ignore the truth that we never have total control over our lives, only our behaviour. And in the process we turn away from God and try to run everything ourselves. And our feelings about the bad times become terrifying and unpleasant because we do not sit with what is and trust God.
I am taking a short break to attend to some family matters in another state. I will return after Easter with my next blog being Wednesday 30 March. For those of you travelling this Easter, may God watch over you and deliver you safely at your destination. For all of you, may the true meaning of Easter be a great revelation, call to praise and blessing.

Posted By Nan

21:1-34 continued
Here in chapter 21, we are at the end of the second cycle of speeches. By now Job has criticised his friends for their lack of support and cruel criticisms. They have expressed anger at what they perceive as this sinful man daring to criticise them, when they are so perfect.
Job starts his speech by asking his friends to actually listen to him, something they haven’t done thus far. He asks them to extend to him the courtesy of hearing him and when they have heard him then they can mock. But he would like them to have actually listened first.
He stresses to them he is not complaining to them, so they don’t have to respond to his complaints. He is complaining to God and it is God who has the right to respond.
We often fall into the trap of thinking we have to solve another person’s problems when all they want is for us to listen. Likewise, we hear another person’s complaint and take it personally and think we have to answer it, when it is not directed at us and we need to remain silent. We can be just as hurtful and unhelpful as Job’s friends if we fail to listen and instead interfere.
Job starts his complaint and asks why the wicked prosper and never suffer in this life. They even reject God and mock Him. If God punishes their descendants they don’t care. They are okay and that is all that matters to them. This is a denial of his friends’ accusations that the wicked are punished. He has mentioned it before and they have refused to listen. Now he hopes they will listen as he complains to God.
From Job’s current perspective, it doesn’t matter whether you are good or bad. Suffering doesn’t work that way. All suffer. He cites the experiences they have all had and proof he is right.
He finishes by asking his friends how he can be comforted by the ridiculous words they speak. What they believe is comfort, the hurtful words they speak, are lies.

Posted By Nan

Things are getting complicated with all the toing and froing between Job and his friends and you may have cause to wonder what is happening here and where have we come from? This is a good time to stop and review some of what we have read.
In this book of Job, God is considered to be almighty, perfectly just and no human is totally innocent in His sight. Therefore humans are punished for not being totally innocent. The trouble with this theology is that suffering is seen as an indication of sin, when we know, because we were privy to the reason for Job’s suffering, that he suffered because satan contended he only loved God because his life was so blessed. So God allowed satan to test him.
This is where we encounter the ages old question of human suffering. People questioned it at the time of Job, they questioned Jesus about it, and they continue to question it today and will do so in the future.
Much of the question here is one of human experiences versus the theology of suffering as punishment for sin which equals Job and others who suffer often failing to have their need for support met.
Job, who always turned to God found his suffering was compounded by the fact he could not feel God. He appeared to be in free fall with no God to catch him. A very scary place to be. Added to this is the hurt caused by his supposed friends who condemned him and wounded him with their legalistic, harsh interpretation of theology. In fact Job will be better consoled by his friends listening to him than anything else they can do.
In Job, satan is cast in a new role as one who tries to get between God and man through suffering. Job suffers, knowing that he has been righteous and enduring the suffering of grief and illness as well as the fake and uncaring judgements of his friends. Job believes he will be vindicated eventually. He still feels miserable and curses the day of his birth and begs God to vindicate him, but he never curses God as satan wants. He expresses his greatest pain is alienation from God. He longs for God. He loves God. He will never curse Him.
So far in Job we have studied satan’s accusation and God’s response leading to Job’s suffering. Then we have read of the arrival of his three friends. At first they sit and share in his pain and all seems well. Job laments his misery and his friends criticise him. He responds to each one and the next one responds, escalating the criticism. Job replies to their criticisms, refining and developing his argument.
To be continued …

Posted By Nan

Zophar speaks again.
He didn’t like Job’s rebuke either and thinks he has superior knowledge. He is particularly affronted by Job’s last words in 19:28-29 that those who judge others shall be judged also.
Zophar’s faith is very legalistic. He sees suffering as the result of sin so he continues on that theme here. He condemns Job for being so sinful. It is ironic that Zophar and the other friends openly charge Job with wrong doing but do not like it when Job accuses them back. Their arrogant assumption of their own worthiness is quite a contrast to his humble assertion of innocence.
What happened to the friends who supported Job? Did they come to support or to judge?
I find it strange that they accuse Job of being a terrible man who oppressed the poor and was greedy for money. If he was so evil, why didn’t they notice it? These supposed friends are arguing about a sinfulness they had never seen. The paradox of what the eye sees and the rigid, legalistic doctrine that seeks to judge and fails to know God. This same behaviour that is still seen amongst Christians bound in legalism today. Guard against legalism in your life and consult God when you encounter it. You may need to run from it.



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